Saturday, August 2, 2008

Aug. 1; Jeremy Wilkins: Ambiguity in the Notion of Development 'From Above'

Ambiguity in the Notion of Development “From Above”

Jeremy D. Wilkins

July 17, 2008

The problem stated in the title is one that arises in connection with an article I am working on, on the transposition of sanctifying grace and infused virtue into a methodical theological context. I would like to pose it, briefly, and see what others think about it.

Let us approach the problem of development from above through successive approximations: development, human development, and finally development from above.

Lonergan defines development generally as “a flexible, linked sequence of dynamic and increasingly differentiated higher integrations that meet the tension of successively transformed underlying manifolds through successive applications of the principles of correspondence and emergence.”[1] This definition incorporates several principles: emergence (the lower invites the higher), correspondence (the higher is limited by the lower, though flexibly), finality (upwardly but indeterminately directed toward overcoming limitations), and development (the linked sequence of dynamic higher integrations). Lonergan adds three further observations on the course of development: it involves increasing explanatory differentiation; it exhibits minor flexibility, inasmuch as development can proceed along different routes; and exhibits major flexibility, to the extent that the ultimate objective itself may shift.[2]

The complexity of human development is partly a function of the three interrelated but distinct genera across which it occurs (biological, psychic, and intellectual; we leave to one side, for the moment, the question of a religious development as a fourth level[3]). Because there is a development, the law of effect obtains. Because the development is compound, the principle of corresponds operates as a law of integration. Because the compound is not overcome, because the biological and psychic levels are a permanent part of the human constitution, the principle of emergence yields a law of limitation and transcendence. And because the tension inherent in limitation and transcendence is in part conscious, there obtains a conditional and analogous law of genuineness with its sanction to be understood through dialectical method.[4]

Lonergan began speaking of development from above to get at the importance of heritage and of love as factors in human development.[5] Development from above means that human development occurs in a world mediated by meanings and motivated by values. That world makes individuals, far more than they make it.[6] The role of heritage and the priority of love offered an analogy for the unfolding of grace.

Most often when Lonergan mentions development from above he brings up the scholastic dictum that nothing is love unless it is first known. On the basis of this assumption, Thomas Aquinas had argued that faith must precede charity, because charity orients the will to a supernatural end (friendship with God), no end can be willed unless it is first known, and a supernatural end can only be affirmed by supernatural faith. Hence, though the first operation of grace is in the will, it is an actual grace prior to the infusion of charity (a habitual grace). Clearly, this problem appears in a different light when faculty psychology provides the terms of reference, than it does when faculty psychology is superceded by intentionality analysis. Lonergan’s customary reference to the scholastic dictum in connection with development from above downward suggests that liberation from faculty psychology was an important breakthrough in his thinking about grace.

However, it remains the case that Lonergan’s expression, development from above, is descriptive. Because it is descriptive, it is also ambiguous and, indeed, obscure. In a precise and explanatory sense, development may be said to be “from above” whenever developments on the higher levels initiate corresponding developments on the lower. In this precise sense, “from above” specifies a vector of the functional interdependence of human development across three explanatory genera, i.e., a vector of the law of integration.

If we consider the way of heritage with exactitude, we have to recognize that in an explanatory sense it includes developments from above and below. Nevertheless, we may still recognize a preliminary, descriptive sense in which the dominant thrust of acculturation, socialization, and education is from higher to lower levels. In the reception of a heritage, goodwill generally precedes deliberation.[7] We learn from our parents, our teachers, our friends because, in some sense, we already love them. So in the way of heritage, love comes first, and its effects can work their way down so thoroughly that our spontaneous gestures, turns of speech, modes of behavior can betray who we admire. In other words, the transmission of a heritage is a notable instance of development from above in the more general sense.

In formulating the heuristic structure of development in Insight, Lonergan anticipated that human development might be initiated by internal or external factors on any level—biological, psychic, or intellectual.[8] Internally, biological impulses and necessities, the psychic and emotional pressures of intersubjectivity, personal discovery and decision; external shifts in material circumstance due to the activities of others, or again their feelings and perceptions, discoveries and decisions all evoke corresponding developments all along the line. What came into less clear focus, in Insight, was the priority of love in motivating and directing one’s entry into the world mediated by meaning.[9] This lack of clarity may be due to the fact that he had not yet decisively overcome the limitations of faculty psychology.

[1] Insight (1958 ed.—all references are to this edition, with apologies, I will revise them for proper publication), 454.

[2] Cf. ibid., 451-458. Also highly relevant is “The Mediation of Christ in Prayer,” Philosphical and Theological Papers 1958-1964, zzz.

[3] See Insight, 696-703, 718-729; “Questionnaire on Philosophy,” Papers 1965-80, 358-61.

[4] Insight, 469-79.

[5] See, e.g., Lonergan, “The Human Good,” Papers 1965-1980, 340; “Healing and Creating in History,” A Third Collection, 100-109 at 106-108.

[6] See “The Human Good,” Papers 1965-1980, 340-42.

[7] See Lonergan’s analysis of belief in Insight, 707-13, but note that the preliminary judgments on the value of belief generally and the reliability of a particular source are, concretely and for the most part, taken for granted, i.e., assumed on the basis of a prior existential orientation, rather than discovered, formulated, pondered, affirmed, considered, and chosen. This is the context in which Lonergan introduces belief in later papers, e.g., “The Human Good,” 340-42.

[8] “The initiative of development may be organic, psychic, intellectual, or external, but the development remains fragmentary until the principle of correspondence between different levels is satisfied” (Insight, 471; see 471-72). I am grateful to Patrick Byrne for pointing out to me the significance of this passage after my presentation at the 2008 Lonergan Workshop (email correspondence, June 20, 2008).

[9] We may have a piece of evidence about his difficulty at this time in the odd situation of the analysis of belief in chapter 20. One might have expected these issues to be raised in connection with commonsense knowing or, perhaps, with scientific collaboration.


Gilles Mongeau, S.J. said...

Greetings Jeremy!

Thank you for your (as usual) lucid presentation of the issue. It occurs to me, as I read your post, that Bob Doran's work on experience as receptivity might bring an additional complexification, suggesting as it does that love may have a more immediate impact on the affective and aesthetic-dramatic life of the individual and may release experience / imagination / affect / memory for new insights, judgments, etc.

Doug Mounce said...

I like the use of ambiguity in the title. As Marvin Minsky wrote in Society of Mind, it's not just that words are ambiguous, thoughts themselves are ambiguous!

In any case, there is a strong sense of the important relation between an individual and the society implied by the higher and lower levels (which also raises issues of connotation in good and bad.) Nevertheless, it would be worthwhile to uncover exactly where Lonergan received his idea of the dialectic if that matters to his application of faculty psychology (which BL later described as client-centered therapy--which is not the same thing as what people generally label "faculty psychology," a term I'm not-sure BL really used.) Therefore, because Jeremy includes a reference to "will," then the chapter from Insight on will, willing, and willingness should be addressed.

On the one hand, all the lower issues about biology and psyche are individual. This animal may not be a social creature, but Jeremy is implying that the individual only can excel to the grace of love in community.